In Brief

In Brief

  • Accenture’s 2019 Insurance Global Risk Management Study reveals a volatile risk environment that poses new challenges from old threats for insurers.
  • Insurance risk leaders surveyed describe their most pressing concerns, including more sophisticated cyber threats and the rise of InsurTech.
  • Our financial services report offers additional insights, as do our reports for banking and capital markets.

What are the risk management challenges facing insurers today? According to our 2019 Global Risk Management Study, the 227 insurance risk leaders we surveyed grapple with evolving regulations, cyber threats and InsurTech (insurance technology). Many of these are not explicitly new—but are taking on a new urgency in today’s climate of fast-paced change.

Insurers also face a unique threat: Changing customer expectations alongside fundamental consumer shifts in some of the markets they serve, such as automotive.

Let’s take a closer look at what troubles today’s insurance risk leaders:

The regulatory challenge

For insurance risk managers surveyed, ever-changing regulations are the most troublesome risk concern they face. Requirements around data privacy and data protection are increasingly strict, particularly when it comes to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, combined with similar requirements around the world. Penalties for failing to meet requirements can be significant.

The regulatory threat is intertwined with other top concerns. A data privacy breach can not only mean hefty fines for failing to meet requirements, but also reputational damage and business disruption.

Worsening cyber threat

Cyber attacks are second on insurance risk managers’ list of worries. But why have these attacks worsened?

Insurance providers are exposed on more fronts as they rely more on new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and work more with InsurTechs. Meanwhile, cyber attackers have become more sophisticated in finding entry points. Finally, the threat of cyber attack has become intertwined with other risks, such as regulatory risks. A data breach can mean a GDPR regulatory failure, and the consequences begin to snowball.

Insurers say they are unprepared for these interconnected risks:


Just more than one in 10 insurers surveyed feel highly confident in managing evolving regulation.


Even fewer insurance risk leaders feel highly confident when it comes to fending off cyber attacks.

A new set of concerns

Opening the door to all-new risks are technology-based solutions provided by InsurTechs. While insurers know InsurTech solutions can pose new threats, they aren’t quite sure how.

"There is a big element of the fear of the unknown. A number of companies express concern that others are running off and making use of these new technologies, while they are still struggling to find specific use cases to make them relevant, get scale and drive value."

— Steve Culp, Senior Managing Director – Accenture Financial Services

Insurers that are adopting new technology have concerns on several fronts. How effective is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for various activities, such as validating pricing or assessing claims? What are the potential business impacts? Less than 10 percent of surveyed risk managers feel fully capable of assessing the risks of AI, robotic process automation, machine learning or blockchain.

Customers are changing

Customer expectations are changing—sometimes dramatically—and this ranks as insurance risk leaders’ fourth biggest concern. Consider the many shifts in customer preferences:

Seamless speed

Thanks to online experiences, insurance customers want fast, intuitive, integrated service. If they don’t get this service, they may switch providers.

New ownership models

Customers no longer always want to own things. What does it mean for insurers if customers would rather use a ride-sharing service than buy a car?

Bundled purchasing

Speaking of car ownership, what happens to insurers when automobile insurance is bundled into the car purchase price?

View All

These new expectations bring not only business challenges, but new threats. And only 10 percent of surveyed insurance risk managers feel highly confident in managing threats that stem from changing customer expectations.

LIBOR can’t be ignored

While insurers aren’t reporting dramatic concern over LIBOR, they likely should take a closer look. A first step might be identifying and quantifying the business’s exposure to specific LIBOR risks.

Next, risk leaders may want to build a framework for managing the risks that could arise from the transition, including how they impact operational and portfolio risk. A poorly timed and executed transition strategy could leave insurers exposed to significant operational risk.

Conduct risk is another factor: Insurance risk managers should protect clients and markets from possible abuse or mis-selling resulting from the LIBOR transition.

Establishing a sphere of control

For insurance risk managers, managing today’s complex, fast-changing risk environment begins by answering one question: What matters most? In an interconnected, volatile risk climate, insurance risk managers won’t be able to fend off every threat, so they should emphasize preparation and planning—not prediction. This is how they manage their sphere of control.

See the full report to learn more about next steps for insurance risk managers.

About the Authors

Steve Culp

Senior Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting

Aliette Leleux

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Client Lead

Chris Johnston

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting

Niccolo Bergamini

Senior Managing Director – Insurance, Finance and Risk Lead​


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Get the essentials

With interconnected risks accelerating faster than ever, how can risk functions keep up? Our 2019 Global Risk Management Study for insurance provides insights to help functions prioritize, prepare and proactively scan the horizon for the next threats.

The Big Read

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Full Insurance Report

Take a deeper dive and explore what 227 surveyed insurance risk executives said about how the risk environment is shifting.


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Insurance Infographic

What top-line risk-related trends did insurance risk executives identify? See our infographic for highlights.

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